There are hundreds, even thousands, of planned housing units in the West Bank that have building permits and do not need any further government approval before their construction can begin, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Civil Administration, told the interministerial committee on illegal outposts Tuesday.

Their construction "could cause similar embarrassment to that created by the publication of the tender for building in Har Homa," he added.

The discussion, which was meant to center on planning and construction in the West Bank, quickly turned into a discussion of the Har Homa crisis, in which the recent tender for the construction of more than 300 apartments in this East Jerusalem neighborhood generated sharp criticism from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

On Monday, the European Union also issued a presidential declaration condemning the construction plans. "The EU considers that this initiative might undermine ongoing efforts in the search for peace and confidence building between the parties, especially at this point in time. The EU urges Israel to honor the commitments under the Road Map and to avoid activities that could prejudge a final status agreement on Jerusalem or undermine progress toward this goal," the statement said.

Attorney Talia Sasson, who compiled the report into illegal outposts, noted that a Justice Ministry proposal for a new planning and construction procedure, could lead to future cases in which it would be possible to build in the West Bank without government approval.

Vice Premier Haim Ramon, the committee's chair, asked the Civil Administration representative exactly how many housing units past governments had already approved and could theoretically begin construction. Mordechai told Ramon that there were "hundreds, or thousands, of such housing units." Ramon asked for the exact figures to be brought to the committee's next meeting.

"Har Homa is within the consensus [as to where Israel can build in the territories], and look how much noise that ended up making. Imagine what would happen if the same thing happened elsewhere, places in which there is no agreement," Ramon said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni agreed. "Another advert in the papers for a construction tender could ruin the negotiations with the Palestinians," she said.

Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, said he supported the construction in Har Homa. "The only problem with Har Homa is that they're building only 300 units there instead 600," he said.

Next month's committee meeting, Ramon said, will review a new and final procedure for administering construction in the West Bank.